My Journey to Join the U.S. Air Force
By Airman 1st Class Karla Vazquez, 366th Public Affairs / Published January 26, 2017
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Most of us join the U.S. Air Force for different reasons: to answer our nation’s call, to get education benefits or simply to leave home and start our own lives.
I joined because I knew it was the best choice for me and my education.
Growing up, my prior-service uncles would constantly suggest I join the military for the benefits, but I shot them down each time.
Yet, during my high school senior year I realized I could not afford college on my own. While asking for my father’s advice, he casually mentioned joining the military. For some reason, at that very moment it clicked: joining the military was the best option for my future.
I was born in Veracruz, Mexico, to young, 20-year-old parents who were scared for the future but prepared to face it together. When I was about one year old, my dad traveled to California for better work opportunities. Almost as soon as he arrived in the United States, my father applied for legal residency for myself and my mother. Even with one foot in the door, so to speak, from my dad’s legal status, it took nearly a decade of waiting to establish residency.
He had lived in the U.S. with his family as a child and established U.S. residency at nine years old. As a young adult, my dad moved in with his two older brothers who helped him secure a vehicle, a good job and a place to live within one year. Shortly before my 2nd birthday, my mother and I were able to move to the U.S. to join my father in search of a better future.
When I was half-way through my senior year, I went to see an Air Force recruiter. Due to my Mexican citizenship the enlistment process took about a year and a half, which is more than twice as long as it does for the normal (citizen) applicant because my list of available Air Force jobs was extremely limited.
I finally shipped out to basic training in November of 2014, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. The Air Force has allowed me to pursue my education and I’m currently one class short of getting my CCAF. I’ve been given the opportunity to learn how to live on my own and I obtained my U.S. citizenship in February of 2016. These are all things that would have been nearly impossible for me in the civilian world at this point in my youth, or in my birth country. I am very thankful for all of the things the United States has allowed me to pursue.
Though I’m serving in the U.S. military and I am an American, I will never stop being proud of my parents, my Hispanic heritage or my history.